Suddenly Legolas stopped, his hand slipping free of the dwarf’s shoulder. Gimli turned to scold him, but the elf pressed a hand to his friend’s lips to keep him silent. He closed his eyes—it made no difference in the darkness, but it helped him concentrate—and listened. There it was again!
“Gimli, I hear him!”
“What? Where?” the dwarf exclaimed.
“This way,” Legolas cried, grabbing Gimli’s hand to pull him after him. “Hurry!”
“Wait—Legolas—you don’t know where you’re going—” he tried to protest.
“Eldarion!” Legolas called, ignoring his friend. “We hear you! We are coming!”
* * *
Eldarion sagged with relief. He couldn’t make out words exactly, but he had heard the cry. “I’m over here! Uncles! Over here!” He continued to shout, knowing his friends would need something to follow to find him, but he hardly felt his head’s protests at the noise.
He’d known everything would be fine. Legolas and Gimli would be here soon. His uncles would never let anything happen to him.
* * *
“Here, Gimli!” Legolas exclaimed excitedly, pressing a sharply pointed ear against the rough rock. “Eldarion, we are here!” he called. “Do not worry!”
“Is he all right?” Gimli asked anxiously.
Legolas held up a hand that his friend could not possibly see in the darkness to silent him, but they had been so close for so long that the actual gesture was not needed so much as the intention of it; they could nearly sense the other’s movements. “Eldarion,” Legolas shouted through the thick rock, “are you harmed?”
“No,” came the muffled response. “I’m just stuck!” Frustration was evident in the child’s voice. Legolas could not help the shiver of fear that ran through him. What would it feel like to be alone in the dark, unable to move to seek for help? It was likely good for them all that the boy had not been able to wander, but to be in that situation…and when so young… The Elf firmly shook such thoughts from his head.
“He says he is unharmed,” Legolas reported tightly to the dwarf waiting anxiously at his side, “but he is ‘stuck’ there.”
“Then what are we waiting for?” Gimli growled. Legolas could hear the dwarf pull something determinedly from his belt and step forward, tensing to swing at the wall.
“Wait,” Legolas caught his friend’s wrist unerringly in the blackness. “If you bring the wall down—”
The elf could sense the scathing glare directed at him. “Listen, Elf,” the dwarf bristled, “I am not about to fell the entire wall. First, this is good, solid stone we are standing in. Secondly, the rock between the lad and us is quite thick. Third, I am going to chip away at it carefully until I have made a hole large enough for us to crawl though, and I am going to listen and stop far before there is the slightest possibility of danger. So leave caves to those who know them.” Gimli pulled his hand free, but the elf did not step back. He could feel the half-imagined glimmer of eyes on him.
Gimli shifted self-consciously under the strong gaze. “What?” he snapped.
“That will take forever!” Legolas exclaimed.
“Have you a better plan?” he asked grumpily. Legolas could tell that his friend already knew what he was telling him, and was frightened at the thought of how much time he really would have to spend at it, but knew of no other way to reach the boy.
“Ay,” said Legolas with a slight smile. “We go over it.”
There was silence for a moment while Gimli gaped. “What madness is this?” he blurted out at last.
“If Eldarion fell in, as we did, then surely the hole will still be there. I cannot fathom why we did not think of this earlier—but all we need do is return to the broken upper level and find the proper opening through which to drop!”
Silence fell again and Gimli looked at his friend sadly. “Legolas…” he said, but his voice failed him. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Legolas. My friend…it is more than likely that the hole we seek will not even be accessible. Most of the floor has crumbled; that is why we find such rubble down here.” He feared that his friend was reaching the end of his endurance in this dark cavern. “But then again,” he said after a moment of deep thought, “perhaps you are right. You shall return and search for the opening, while I begin the work down here—just in case. Light the torches that are still scattered somewhere up there so that you will be able to avoid falling down any more pits. Here, I shall lead you back so you do not get lost—”
A hand on his shoulder cut the dwarf off. “Gimli,” Legolas said firmly, “cease. I am not going to break because of the cave. Do not coddle me.” The elf’s eyes flashed a moment, two spots of harsh light in the black gloom.
They stared sightlessly at one another, eyes centered on faces invisible in the dark through long association and familiarity. At last, Gimli heaved a heavy sigh. “I am not trying to ‘coddle you,’ my friend,” he said softly. “I am simply worried for you.”
Legolas’s hand tightened in thanks, wordlessly expressing his understanding. “I know,” he replied in a whisper. “But I will be all right. It is Eldarion whom we now need fear for. He is found, but we have yet to find
“And that has me worried as well, and no doubt on edge,” Gimli admitted sourly. “I truly have no idea how we are going to get the child out of there…”
A swift flutter of fingers against his lips stilled his words and he waited, ears straining to catch whatever it was Legolas had heard—or sensed, or whatever it was that the elf had done for his attention to be so suddenly ensnared.
“Gimli,” when Legolas spoke again his voice was a gasp of barely contained excitement. “There is a way in! I can hear it—Eldarion’s words come not only through the rock, but down the tunnel, as well!”
“What? Where?” Gimli started forward, stumbling into the elf in his haste.
“This way,” Legolas breathed anxiously, again grabbing Gimil’s hand to tug the dwarf after him. “Eladrion,” he called to the boy, “we are coming for you!” They flew down the tunnel together, only barely keeping from stumbling over rubble that the elf’s senses dodged just in time. “We are coming little one,” he whispered to himself. “Hold on.”
Gimli could not bring his suddenly dry mouth to echo the words, but he repeated them in his heart.
We are coming. We are coming. Hold on. We are coming…
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.